Ex-official to help out at lake
Continuing resigned lake superintendent Steve Hudson’s campaign against zebra mussels invading the county lake is among the key reasons retired register of deeds Jo Ottensmeier agreed Friday to temporarily help out at the lake.
She will be paid $10 an hour —minimum wage for county employees — to serve as a part-time, temporary aide in the lake office for up to 60 days.
“Instead of being a camper, you’ll be on the other side of the desk,” commission chairman Randy Dallke said after the commission unanimously approved her appointment.
Ottensmeier, who retired in January after 22 years in the register of deeds office, says she frequently takes her fifth-wheeler on camping trips to both the lake and Marion Reservoir.
Commissioners discussed her volunteering for the position behind closed doors before emerging to appoint her.
Ottensmeier will be able to work up to 999.75 hours total — more than 40 hours a week, if need be, county clerk Tina Spencer said.
She will work with lake assistant Adam Benson, who received a $3-an-hour raise to $14.89 an hour June 19 to serve as interim lake superintendent while a search for Hudson’s ultimate replacement continues.
Spencer noted Monday that Benson had stepped into the leadership position nicely.
“Steve taught me pretty much everything I know,” Benson said. He helped me greatly.
“Everything has been going pretty smooth so far. It’s been surprisingly slow for a holiday weekend, but that could be because the Fourth of July is Tuesday and the algae bloom warning. There’s not much we can do about the algae except keep the public advised about it.”
He said the sheriff’s department had increased its presence at the lake to help cover security. He also noted that people seem to be enjoying a newly installed model plane airstrip.
Commissioners met behind closed doors several times during their meeting Friday to evaluate applications for the permanent superintendent position and for the vacant county appraiser position.
Emerging in open session, they selected finalists to interview in coming days but despite circulating, changing, and commenting on the list during open session declined to release names of the finalists.
Spencer said several recent applicants “looked promising,” but when asked whether the public might have an interest in knowing who the candidates were so concerned citizens could comment about them, commissioner Kent Becker replied: “That’s not their job.”
Commissioners plan to meet behind closed doors with the applicants but cannot legally do so without naming who will be allowed to remain behind closed doors with them.
Spencer suggested that commissioners could designate just one commissioner to meet along with other officials, such as the county clerk and county counselor, with each candidate.
That group could then report back to the full commission behind closed doors to get around provisions of the Kansas Open Meetings Law, she said.
No action other than instructing Spencer to set up closed-door meetings with the full commission was taken.